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Reading Paul Beatty’s The Sellout


One book leads to another—it’s almost true. I was looking for The Nazi and the Barber, a hilarious Edgar Hilsenrath novel people have been telling me for years to read, but found Paul Beatty’s The Sellout because an article on Edgar Hilsenrath’s book at the bookstore. It was one of those banned books—banned in Germany for a long time—that addresses the subject matter with a frankness, not to be conflated with honesty. It’s one of those books that makes reader flinch the whole way through. This “flinching” feeling is what motivates Paul Beatty to write The Sellout.

The subject matter that makes Beatty constantly flinch is racism. His first experience of it was second grade, when a kid called him the “N” word. They got into a little fight. He went back to the day care center, pulled out the dictionary, and looked up the word. “I don’t think things were ever good. Anywhere, any place, any time. It’s not so much about color or anything else. There are some things that can be gained by convincing yourself things are good, so I understand why people do it.” Political correctness is not to be confused with goodness.

Beatty says one of the biggest problems is people tend to be accusatory. Pointing fingers and calling names. They skewer any opportunity of a discussion. The one thing that could be solved is some justice could be meted out. People can at least go to trial

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